NAME: Jachai Polite
POSITION: EDGE Defender
JERSEY: No. 99
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 240 lbs
Burst – Has a slight recoil from a 2-point stance that delays his initial get-off enough to limit his first step explosiveness. After that he’s a blur. If he can eliminate that false step, might have more juice up the arc than any edge rusher in the class. Extremely fast up the arc and can push tackles into oversets right away. Couple times he put his hands in the dirt, the get-off was biblical.
Bend – When the edge is soft, he can bend it tight to the quarterback. Where he struggles is bending through contact at his light weight. Doesn’t quite create the force at the top of the arc to power through a punch while turning the corner, can get pushed upfield as a result. When he beats the tackle clean however, shows the hip flexibility and ankle bend to tighten quickly and crush passers. Drops his shoulder to finish. Does a good job rotating his hips at the top of the arc to minimize surface area, athletic enough to swing his whole body around and scrape for a strip-sack.
Rush Moves – Way more diverse than just a simple speed-bend rusher. Can ice pick tackles out of nowhere, also shows the ability to cross-chop and finish. Does an outstanding job of lulling tackles to sleep with stutter steps and is really good at slipping around contact. Transitions from stab to rip or shoulder dip quickly. Can’t convert speed-to-power, and if he gets gripped up, the fight is usually over. Lack of length and power definitely limit him at times.
Counters – Ability to convert speed to counters is top-notch. Ridiculously sudden spin move that left offensive tackles clutching for air. Knows how to setup his counters by selling speed up the arc. Body control is top-notch. Crafty in his movements and constantly works back to the depth of the quarterback as a rusher.
Run Defense – Super slight frame that will get overwhelmed at times in the trenches. Physically can’t matchup with power/technique types, but don’t tell him that. Plays with a physicality and nastiness in the run game that adds enough punch to his game to hold his own. Active and well-placed hands shed blocks better than you think. May give a little ground off the snap, but typically works off contact quickly to defend his gap. Outstanding range and constantly makes plays to the boundary. Ability to fend off blockers while continuing to move laterally and string out perimeter runs is top-notch. Takes tight ends personally, although Isaac Nauta got him a few times. Might get knocked on his butt a time or two, but has ability to slip blockers that will allow him to create negative plays too.
Lateral Mobility – All-around movement skills are top-notch. Adjusts his angle on the fly and will re-route quickly to track the ball. Able to change directions in space quickly, rarely dropped into coverage but clearly has the traits to do so. Not many backs could outrun him to the perimeter. Stop/start action is best in the class.
Mental Processing/Vision – Consistently steps down in unblocked situations to wrong-arm pullers. You can argue his effectiveness in those situations (he doesn’t blow blockers up), but not his processing or effort. Thinks the game fast as a pass rusher. Responds to bad sets appropriately and sees chips coming. Works back inside to avoid getting doubled up on the edge. Finds the ball quickly and gets in pursuit. Occasionally gets too deep against the run and will expand his gap unnecesarily.
Tackling/Finishing – Not the biggest or longest tackler, but consistently brings it and finishes decisively. Outstanding at targeting the football during sacks, six strip sacks this season and several more that were so close to being fumbles. Makes sure quarterbacks feel it.
Competitive Toughness – Plays with his hair on fire and makes tons of plays in pursuit. Aggressive and physical, despite winning more as a finesse pass rusher. Effort and motor are consistently top-notch.
Athleticism/Size – Weight and small overall frame are concerns. Appears to lack bulk all over his frame and doesn’t have ideal length for the position. Should test as one of the top all-around athletes in the class at this position.
BEST TRAIT – Arc Speed/Bend
WORST TRAIT – POA Run Defense
RED FLAGS – None
Jachai Polite is being billed as a pass rush specialist, and while it’s true that is often how Florida deployed him, he has played against the run plenty this season and more than held his own. What Polite lacks as a point-of-attack powerhouse he makes up for with good technique, exceptional range and the ability to slip blocks and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Yes, I’d like to see the NFL put some more meat on his bones, but Polite plays sudden and physical, which are better traits to have than bulk. His pass rush game is pretty polished, and his ability to win with speed and bend opens up inside counters all day. NFL teams may overlook him because of his frame, but the traits are here for Polite to be a double-digit sack guy at the next level. The one catch? He might not be as scheme diverse as the other top guys due to his size limiting him to a 3-4 outside linebacker role.
First Step Quickness –Woah. When get off is correct and he doesn’t false step, this is superb burst. All the more impressive is secondary acceleration through the corner. Plays at a high rate of speed and nothing is done without twitch or burst. Blue chip quality.
Hand Technique/Length – Placement is effective, particularly on stabs and counter strikes. His power, however, isn’t present if he’s caught by the numbers. Like his urgency with his hands, affords him success to prevent a first blow from landing on his body.
Pass Rush Counters – Primarily a speed rusher but isn’t without secondary counters. Effective work back inside with shallow swim. Surface reduction on inside shoulder does well to force whiffed punches. Flashes an inside spin move as well.
Flexibility – Body control is very strong. Has little issue with leverage as a pass rusher or lateral tilt to carry his speed to optimal velocity. Lower body flexion through the ankles allows hard pivots and tight turns. Works hips across blockers with ease from wide angles.
Run Defending – Can get enveloped and swallowed up at the POA. Struggles in tight quarters to set the edge and keep himself square to the LOS. His effort and scrappiness come in useful to prevent him from getting blown away but generally once squared up, he’s eliminated.
Competitive Toughness – Functional strength isn’t necessarily where he’s going to hang his hat. Can get clamped down and pinned and struggles with upper body strength to press himself clear. Effort level as a rusher is tremendous, however. A lot of second effort plays working back to target.
Tackling – Hunts the football. Love how he gets after ball in quarterback’s hand coming around the back side. Tackle radius is effective, not necessarily thanks to length but to body bend, short area quickness and acceleration into the tackle.
Lateral Mobility – Has plenty of range. When he’s given a step, he can work over the top of blockers working outside the numbers and get into appropriate challenging position. Very sudden with his flash across the face to duck inside.
Stand Up Ability – Has been tasked with two and three point stances, shows ample get-off out of either. Stunt plays and acceleration to work back across protection fronts can yield some pressure but isn’t likely to be caught down a lot of pass coverage.
Football IQ – Pretty cerebral rusher, doesn’t get boxed in and married to a single counter. Has some technical areas to work on, including a false step getting out of his stance that could allow him to be even more dynamic. Shows great instincts to navigate his rush track and the QB.
PROSPECT COMPARISON – Takk McKinley
BEST TRAIT – First Step Explosiveness
WORST TRAIT – Run Defending
BEST FILM – Florida State (2018)
WORST FILM – Kentucky (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Jachai Polite projects favorably as an impact pass rusher at the NFL level. Polite has an explosive first step, speed that accelerates through the turn, flexibility and short area suddenness that makes him very difficult to account for off the edge. Polite shines when he’s afforded room to stress Tackles, so wider alignments will be favorable to his pro forecast. Polite shows room to grow with better extension skills vs. the run.
Run Defense – Has impressive moments knifing through gaps and getting into the backfield. Highly effective backside defender to chase plays down. Lacks the mass and length to consistently set the edge and squeeze gaps. Gets bounced around in the trenches when tasked with exchanging power with offensive lineman.
Pass Rush – Generates pressure with explosive burst up the arc, twitch and flexibility. Slippery when working around the edge and does well to reduce his surface area. Not only a speed rusher and mixes in a variety of counters. Does well to set up his rush effectively with good vision and footwork.
Burst – Has dynamic speed up the arc and offensive tackles will be challenged to keep pace with him. Does have some recoil from a two-point stance that needs to be cleaned up. Steps two and three are a blur. Closes down distances rapidly.
Effort – No concerns here. Plays hard on every snap although it is helpful that he rotated quite a bit. Chases down plays from distance and his secondary effort is outstanding as well.
Hand Technique – Hands are active but his lack of length presents challenges keeping his pads clean. Has technique to disengage but blockers are able to crowd his frame and he must work overtime to get free. Does not consistently use his extension.
Flexibility – Has excellent flexibility to quickly change directions. Able to bend the edge track and corner. Loose in the shoulders and torso to reduce his surface area and get skinny through gaps. Sudden and twitched up. Fluid mover in space.
Processing – Plays with good feel and understands blocking schemes. Reads the blockers set well and attacks effectively. Is guilty of working too far up the field and will sell out at times. Sees through blocks and does well to find the football. Knows how the strip the football.
Play Strength – Wins more with finesse than physicality but isn’t afraid to exchange power in the trenches although he lacks the mass and strength to consistently hold up. Doesn’t convert speed to power well and requires soft edges to take advantage of his flexibility to bend the edge track because he lacks the strength to press the angle. Contact balance is below average.
Versatility – Profiles as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I don’t trust him with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end to hold up against the run. Has not been tested in pass coverage and his upside as a run defender is slashing gaps.
BEST TRAIT – Burst
WORST TRAIT – Run Defense
RED FLAGS – None
Polite has the burst, flexibility, rush variety, processing skills and twitch needed to become an impact pass rusher in the NFL. With that said, his lack of play strength, length and mass limits his upside as a run defender. Polite projects favorably to a 3-4 outside linebacker role but hasn’t been tasked with coverage drops so his ability there remains to be seen. Polite should see the field early in his career on passing downs where he should be an effective pass rusher as he develops the rest of his skill set to become an every-down option.